The Mayan people who have been displaced by plantations or mining operations by corporations long to particapate in the world’s economic system. They will go to great lengths to participate. As Eldon reports:
As undocumented migrants, they are willing to face incredible risks to try their best against enormous odds. They are willing to leave family and homeland. They are willing to cross unknown country and trust their lives to people they don’t know and to pay them large sums of money (from $5000 to $8000) to get into the US.
They will risk their lives, pay a bribe, to ride on the top of train boxcars through Mexico. They will risk hunger and dehydration to cross deserts in northern Mexico. They now face cartels in Mexico who will hold them hostage to extort more money from their family members already in the US or still at home in Guatemala. They risk being forced to carry drugs for the drug cartels on their person or internally in their bodies in order to get across the border into the US.
The horror stories we heard of accidents, extortion, deaths and detentions were heart breaking. We also heard stories of courage and determination for the sake of their families. What is overwhelmingly astounding is the ongoing size and complexity of the migration phenomenon. Some say 90,000 individuals from Central America including Guatemala migrate into the United States each year. 70,000 of these return to their country by either forced or self deportation. This has been going on for decades and continues today for the most part unabated. It has only in recent years become a political issue in the United States.
MCC is now working with local partners in Guatemala and Mexico to address some of the problems and challenges of the mass migration of undocumented people. In Guatemala MCC assists the rural people to develop skills and produce crops which will improve their lives and generate cash for the basic needs of their families. MCC and these partners are standing with the people in their concerns about the ways the global economic system has imposed on their way of life and the injustices they are forced to confront.
In four indigenous communities we visited in the highlands of Guatemala, we heard the stories of people who are developing fish ponds, sustainable organic gardens, flower greenhouses which are providing better nutrition for their families, marketable produce for income and work for members of their family so they do not feel the pressure to migrate.
In addition, this tour group visited with two elected officials of the Guatemala legislature to hear their perspective of the issues and the complexities of migration. We also traveled into Mexico to learn more about how undocumented people from Central America cross the Guatemala- Mexico border and either find work harvesting coffee or as domestics in Mexico or continue through Mexico and cross the Mexico- U.S. border. This trip through Mexico has been called the Devil’s Highway by award-winning author Luis Urrea.
We learned how NAFTA has hurt the small rural farmers. One farmer among the colony Mennonites in northern Mexico received a million dollar loan to produce large scale irrigated corn crops. His success along with other similar large scale corn production has robbed small farmers of southern Mexico of a viable market for their locally produced corn.
So do we really wonder why these people try to find other ways to participate in the world and the wealth of resources they see around them? Do we fathom the profound injustices that have been forced on these people without their participation or choice in the matter?\
The next post will conclude with stories told by Eldon